Feds’ DATA Act Implementation is Focus of Congressional Hearing and AICPA Conference Discussion

August 20, 2015

Christina Ho and Mark Reger

Christina Ho, left; Mark Reger, right.
Although the federal government is proceeding with implementation of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act), full and effective implementation will not occur without “sustained commitment by the executive branch and continued oversight by Congress,” the Comptroller General of the United States said in recent House testimony.

Meanwhile, two other federal officials provided a DATA Act implementation update during the AICPA’s Governmental Accounting and Auditing Update in Washington, D.C. on August 10.

Christina Ho, deputy assistant secretary in the Treasury Department’s Office of Accounting Policy & Financial Transparency, pointed to the public accessibility of a DATA Act schema.

The schema is a generic model based upon the financial data elements required by the DATA Act, which is expressed in eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL).  The American Institute of CPAs believes that XBRL is the only available data standard to adequately meet the requirements of the DATA Act.  In addition, Ho said Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) have developed a DATA Act playbook for federal agencies to follow.  Outreach to stakeholders – including state and local governments, as well as recipients of federal grants – is another important element of the implementation process.

In assessing the DATA Act’s importance, Mark Reger, deputy controller at OMB, advised attendees, “You have to start to think about federal financial data the same way you think about searches on the Internet.  Imagine if you wanted to find out about federal financial management or procurement or grants and you could key in something and it would bring you back information on linking those activities together.  If you’re a federal manager, this is a huge increase in your ability to actually analyze the date you see all the time and deal with.  And in an era where budgets are going to continue to decrease, it shows you where you can make improvement.”